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Lady Sings the Blues (1972)

The story of the troubled life and career of the legendary Jazz singer, Billie Holiday.

Director:

Sidney J. Furie

Writers:

Chris Clark (screenplay), Suzanne De Passe (screenplay) (as Suzanne de Passe) | 3 more credits »
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Nominated for 5 Oscars. Another 5 wins & 3 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Diana Ross ... Billie Holiday
Billy Dee Williams ... Louis McKay
Richard Pryor ... Piano Man
James T. Callahan ... Reg Hanley (as James Callahan)
Paul Hampton ... Harry
Sid Melton ... Jerry
Virginia Capers ... Mama Holiday
Yvonne Fair Yvonne Fair ... Yvonne
Isabel Sanford ... The Madame
Tracee Lyles Tracee Lyles ... The Prostitute
Ned Glass ... The Agent
Milton Selzer ... The Doctor
Norman Bartold ... The Detective #1
Clay Tanner Clay Tanner ... The Detective #2
Jester Hairston ... The Butler
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Storyline

Born Elinore Harris, Billie Holiday had a difficult teen and young adulthood period, which included working in brothels, both as a cleaning woman and a prostitute, and being raped. Through this difficulty, she dreamed of becoming a jazz singer. She got her initial singing break when she applied at a Harlem club that was looking for a dancer, but where she got hired as a singer. There, she met and fell in love with the suave Louis McKay. After this initial break, Billie wanted her singing career to move to the mainstream clubs in downtown Manhattan. She took a risk when she agreed to be the lead singer for the Reg Hanley Band, a primarily white group, who convinced her that she would have to make her mark in regional tours before her Manhattan dream could happen. As Billie tried to advance her career, pressures of life, including being a black woman, led to her not so secret substance abuse (especially of heroin), not so secret because of her increasingly erratic behavior, both on ... Written by Huggo

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

Diana Ross IS Billie Holiday See more »


Certificate:

R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

12 October 1972 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Lady Sings the Blues See more »

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Box Office

Gross USA:

$19,726,490
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono

Color:

Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

2.39 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Berry Gordy originally considered Four Tops' lead singer Levi Stubbs for the role of Louis McKay, but Stubbs had turned it down because he thought it would interfere with the group's future success. See more »

Quotes

Louis McKay: [offering Billie a $20 bill] You want my arm to fall off.
See more »

Connections

Referenced in Modern Family: New Year's Eve (2013) See more »

Soundtracks

Gimme a Pigfoot and a Bottle of Beer
(uncredited)
music and lyrics by Wesley Wilson
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

 
Ross Totally deserved the Oscar over Liza Minelli
8 April 1999 | by Rupe-5See all my reviews

I would be the first to agree that it was standard fare as far as a musical bio...and Cabaret was a superior film. But Diana Ross' performance was a stunning film debut. This is the kind of overlooked performance that makes it so clear that pure ability is not what the Academy Awards are all about. I tend to think really great acting always sneaks above the voting members scope of being able to truly reccognize great acting.

But anyone who hasn't seen Diana Ross' performance in Lady is in for a treat. To think that she went through so many transitions within the film: from youngster, to a drug addict, to a grand singer...it's a truly great performance.


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